Hot on the dancing field of the Irish traditional music revival comes the Scottish brand. On Saturday at the Ethical Society, Glascow's Battlefield Band unveiled a unique northern approach. Working from the deep well of traditional Scottish bagpipe and fiddle tunes, and incorporating centuries of broadsides and ballads, it guided the music in a brilliant new direction without sacrificing mainstream roots.
The four-man band established its light spirit with an unlikely blend of instruments: One expects pipes, flutes and fiddles, but Alan Reid's discreet integration of electric keyboards and synthesizer was not only totally sympathetic, but suprisingly true to form. The Battlefield Band performed a full complement of jigs, strathspeys, marches and reels, switching instruments like partners at a square dance. Duncan MacGilldrey's frenzied Highland pipes and Brian's McNeil's scorching fiddle often raced along like a train without an engineer, while earthy ballads like "Braw Lads Au Galla Water" and "The Boar and the Fox" were sufficiently mournful and almost delicately understated.
But some of the most intriguing moments came with "Miss Drummond of Perth's Favorite Scotch Measure/Miss MacLeod's Minuet," one of several moments approaching classical resolution. At these timesm the otherwise rambunctious and spritely Battlefield Band invited closed eyes and open hearts, a momentary slide to better than these.After 10 years and five wonderful albums, their first American album, "Home Is Where the Van Is," will be released on the small independent label, Flying Fish, this week.
(For another measure, the Tannahill Weavers will be at Gaston Hall on May 31.)